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Why Love Doesn't Love Football
By Love Rutledge

Perhaps there are women in New Orleans who follow the Saints closely, maybe even watch LSU and Tulane games on a regular basis. I, however, am not one of them. Despite my Southern upbringing, I feel no end-all-be-all connection to football.

    Let me back up.

    I was raised on Bama ball, a product of lower Alabama (L.A., as some of the more pseudo-stylish people from the Gulf Coast call it). I'm not sure how old I was when I realized that Paul Bryant's first name wasn't really Bear. On game days, my mom would make her famous cheesy bean dip and the three of us would hoot and holler at the TV. The contents of the casserole dish would be gone by the time the fourth quarter started. Though the event afforded us the opportunity to spend time together, it was always truly Dad's day. Left to our own devices, we ladies of the house would never elect to watch football on television.

Up North: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV.
Down South: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over to where ESPN is broadcasting "live" on Game Day to get on camera and wave to the idiots up North (who wonder why Game Day is never broadcast from their campuses).

Up North: Drinks served in a paper cup filled to the top with soda.
Down South: Drinks served in a plastic cup with the home team's mascot. Filled less than halfway to ensure enough room for bourbon.
    There are other reasons I never bonded with the game, even though my father is a sports writer and absolutely lives and loves it. I went to a private high school with no football team. (Sacrilege you might say ... We had homecoming celebrations for soccer, the sport for fans who don't want to drizzle barbeque sauce on their new Izod shirt.) There was never the anticipation of the big game, or a booster club, or the mythological hunky quarterback that roamed the halls. I went to a few football games during my high school days. I saw the couples huddled together under stadium blankets, hands in each other's back pockets. I witnessed the teased, dyed-blond hair on the girls in tight jeans. I smelled the Rave hairspray detectable at any Southern sporting event. I yelled for the home team. I paid attention to the downs and the penalties. But my heart was never truly in it.

   When asked the quintessential Alabama question, "Who do you go for?" I always responded "Bama," but that response was inherited.

   Don't get me wrong. I love sports. I'm falling behind in work because I can't get enough of the World Series. I love ball park popcorn — the kind that leaves a painful burning sensation in the corner of your mouth because Jo Anna in the concession stand poured in too much salt. I love watching an underdog climb back to clench a victory. I love that 75-year-old fan Coach lets on the team bus so he can keep up his 300+ games-watched streak. But I don't love football. I don't understand why people buy those little plastic-poled flags with their team's emblem and attach them to their vehicles.

   I don't understand why people use hard-earned vacation time to travel to away games. I really don't understand how to pronounce the name Favre. (I'm relatively sure no one in Mississippi can say it, either.) I don't understand how anyone could have the last name Booty -like one of LSU's players fighting over the quarterback spot. Last year I thought, maybe, I would have a more sustained interest in men playing with their pigskin.

   I was wrong.

Up North: Male and female alike: wooly sweater or sweatshirt and jeans.
Down South: Male — pressed khakis, Oxford shirt, cap with frat logo, Justin Ropers;Female — ankle-length skirt, coordinated cardigan, flat riding boots (with flask of bourbon), Oxford.

Up North: Chapstick in their back pocket and a $20 bill in their front pocket.
Down South: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, powder, mascara (water-proof), concealer, and a fifth of bourbon. Wallet not necessary; that's what a date is for.

Up North: Stands are less than half full.
Down South: 100,000 fans sing along in perfect three-part harmony.
   As a junior at Tulane University during its once-in-a-lifetime undefeated season, I figured since we were winning so much, I'd feel like I had a vested interest in there somewhere ... school spirit and all ... maybe. With a Bowden at the helm of our school's program, even people back home asked about my school. Bowden brought recognition. Bowden brought pride. Bowden left.

   As quickly as he had come, he vanished. Like Santa Claus in green and blue, Tommy Bowden built up hopes and then crushed them with the abrupt departure no one seemed to see firsthand. Again this year, I found myself at a Southern school with little football fervor, no chest painting, no mania over who was in the end zone, and a big, empty Superdome. And the city of New Orleans offers little in the way of great athletics. The Saints are, well, just there. All of the hullabaloo over their boy wonder with the funky hair seems to be much ado about nothing. Everyone and their brother in the Crescent City seem to hate Ditka. The Saints don't inspire me to fandom.

   Oh well.

   I'll never be one of those women supporting her city's team, screaming her head off for the ESPN cameras. This year (since turning 21) I have, however, learned one thing that makes the sport tolerable. Nothing chases a shot of football down better than a large, overpriced beer bought from a man who wears a paper hat and calls you "Honey" and means it. Now that's something I can appreciate.

Love Rutledge is a free-lance writer working on a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and communications at Tulane University in New Orleans.
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